There were strong warnings that the Souris River was flooding, that life in Minot, N.D., could be severely crippled.
But for the Rev. John Brady, pastor of First Assembly of God in Minot, it wasn’t until that siren rang around 1 p.m. on June 22 that it hit home.
Life in this town of 40,000 people, tucked an hour or so south of the Canada border, would forever be changed.
“When I heard the siren, it was an emotional moment in my life,” Brady said. “That is the moment that will stand out in my life and many lives. We knew it was coming, but when it happened, that was the moment of reality.”
Struck by the magnitude of what lay ahead, Brady quietly excused himself, slipped back to the hallway outside his office “and had a good cry and a good prayer.”
Because shortly after, there would be no such thing as normalcy at his church. First Assembly of God immediately turned into a shelter, taking refuge to those who suddenly found themselves without a place to live as the flooding would reach “epic proportions,” accoring to Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND.
“Long, long days and nights,” Brady said. “As we mobilized, we turned our church into an emergency response team and we were honored to do that.”
God has been using Brady and the First Assembly congregation in a multitude of ways, hosting both the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team and Samaritan’s Purse as they continue to minister in this ongoing relief effort.
“Pastor John Brady and his wife, Naomi, have just been a blessing to us,” said Rapid Response Team chaplain Chuck Bender. “They’ve opened up their church, their hearts, their facility. We have people sleeping in their Sunday school rooms.”
But it’s been more than just the pastor and his wife extending warm hospitality.
“The congregation has been so wonderful and warm to us,” Bender said. “They came up and talked to us and thanked us for being here. This is really a Bible-friendly church and godly people who love the Lord.”
But from Brady’s perspective, it’s been just the opposite. The support that both the Rapid Response Team and Samaritan’s Purse have given this deeply-afflicted community has been immeasurable.
“We are all indebted and grateful,” he said. “It’s answered some of the feelings of loneliness and being alone, when we know we have friends across the nation.”
The number of people impacted by the flooding is staggering. Over one-fourth of the population (12,000 people) have been displaced with over 4,000 homes damaged.
Over 50 families in Brady’s congregation were affected to some degree.
“It has touched about every emotion one has as a human being,” he said. “Everyone is on the verge of tears. As pastor, you do feel the burden for your families, for your community. We are blessed and I am blessed to have an amazing staff and church congregation.”
For Brady, he’s seen many new families come to First Assembly with a renewed emphasis placed on looking to God and being in “a safe place” — a church.
“We are doing our part in loving people where they are at,” he said. “In the midst of the crisis, in the midst of the chaos, the harvest is ripe.”
The fields around Minot, however, are still heavily saturated with water, which weighs heavily on the local residents.
“The challenge is that they’ve just gotten into their houses about a week ago and they’re worried about winter coming,” Rapid Response chaplain Chuck Bender said. “I guess the first snow starts at the end of September or early October.”
The water table is so high, Bender said, that sump pumps are running 24 hours a day, even in the higher elevations.
“So the question is do they rebuild, do they wait until next spring or do they wait to see what the city wants to do, whether they want to tear down some homes,” Bender said. “These are the questions that are really bothering these folks. This is the emotional side of the dilemma here in Minot.”